US Comics on sale August 2018

Creating Comics: Atomeka publisher Dave Elliott’s plan to save the US comics industry

US Comics on sale August 2018

Over the last few years, Atomeka Press publisher Dave Elliott has stood by and frustratingly watched as the US comic book industry continues to devour itself like the mythical Ouroboros, the snake that ate its own tail. Last week, he published his proposal to help save it from itself on DeviantArt, attracting plenty of comment from fellow comic professionals.

We’re delighted he’s given downthetubes permission to repost his proposal here, complementing editor Tim Pilcher’s feature on the British book publishing sector and how to successfully build a graphic novel line

US Comics Market Share - January 2018. Image: Diamond
US Comics Market Share – January 2018. Image: Diamond

Readership of US comics continues to decline, comics that once sold hundreds of thousands of copies struggle to break six figures. A successful independent could be 5000 sales. Sales go down, prices go up. Large companies double down on their popular characters, diluting their entertainment value even more.

While I have primarily always worked for independent companies, I have worked as a freelancer at the larger companies too, both as a creator and packager. I’ve also worked for comic companies whose main markets were the newsstand and mainstream market.

With this in mind, last year I wrote a publishing proposal for both MARVEL and DC Comics to look at to encourage more lapsed and mainstream readers to start reading comics again.

To understand my approach, you have to understand that both Marvel and DC are owned by large corporations who are in competition with each other. Both produce over 70 different titles every month. These are far more titles than the market can really support, but neither company wants to admit that and neither is willing to cut back.

Beta Ray Bill and Thor by Walt Simonson © Marvel
Beta Ray Bill and Thor by Walt Simonson © Marvel

My idea was to keep the same dollar value of books coming out each month but create a Value For Money appeal to them. Instead of doing annuals as throwaway books just to fill a gap in the schedule, put top creators who no longer do monthly books on them and their shelf life will increase. Imagine Walt Simonson doing a Beta Ray Bill annual every year. Keep them all in print. They will continue to make money and Walt will get a nice royalty to keep doing them.

Below are the proposals I sent to Marvel and DC. I got some interesting feedback from them but they seem too firmly set in their plans to implement much of this.

DC Comics On Sale August 2018 - Selection

DC Comics Publishing proposal

The idea laid out below is to expand the story pages per issue so a single story can be told in each comic. The equation I have worked out is as follows; 80% of the issue is a single story with the other 20% made up of references and fall-out to previous stories and setting up the future stories.

Every issue should be a substantive read and enjoyable on its own with a tease to make the reader want more.

The problem with comics is that they cannot be read by the mainstream reader because there is no starting point. To understand reaching a wider audience you have to understand that the average person does not consume their media in the same way as comics readers have been trained to. They have to learn it in the same way people have been trained to binge-watch Netflix and HBO series where a large story is broken down into chunks. People don’t expect to see an article or interview to be broken down across six to 12 issues of People magazine or Vanity Fair. Every magazine is a done in one. Premiere magazine might do a series of features where each issue it looks at a different Stanley Kubrick film. It is a series but each article can be read and enjoyed separately.

The idea is to publish fewer titles at a higher cover price with greater perceived value. It also becomes possible to buy all the core universe books at $70 per month. Reading complete stories would encourage people to stop waiting for the trade, while still satisfying the current audience preferring a longer read.

Another possible suggestion to add to these is to start every year with a new number 1 but start numbering the volumes. Each year is one volume.

I’ve broken down the publishing schedule into MONTHLY, MINI-SERIES, QUARTERLY and ANNUALS.

There are 14 monthly titles but a further 10 titles a month because of the mini-series. I’ve assigned titles based on those that have the most long-range popularity while some titles that are currently popular I have pulled back on in an effort to make sure they stay popular and not to over saturate the market.

MONTHLY

Monthly titles are 48 pages, 44 pages of story, $4.99

CORE TITLES: Titles that make up the must-read center of the DC Universe.

ACTION COMICS – Superman in cosmic action.
AQUAMAN
BATMAN
BIRDS OF PREY
DETECTIVE COMICS – Batgirl, Batwoman, Robin and Nightwing, sometimes Batman.
FLASH
GREEN ARROW
GREEN LANTERN
JUSTICE LEAGUE
SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER-VILLAINS
SUPERGIRL
SUPERMAN – The life and times of Superman. Clark Kent, Lois, Daily Planet etc…
TEEN TITANS
WONDER WOMAN

REGULAR ANNUAL 4 MINI-SERIES

These titles get one mini-series a year. Not necessary to read to understand the DCU. No MINI-SERIES title can affect the larger DCU. Mini-series titles are 32 pages, 24 pages of story, $3.50

AGE OF HEROES (set in the past Viking Prince etc)
ALL STAR BATMAN
BATMAN BEYOND
BATGIRL
BATWOMAN
BLUE BEETLE
CATWOMAN
CYBORG
DEATHSTROKE
DOOM PATROL
GREEN LANTERN CORPS
GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW
GOTHAM ACADEMY
HARLEY QUINN
HAWKMAN AND THE ATOM
HELLBLAZER
JONAH HEX
JUSTICE SOCIETY
LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES
LOBO
MOTHER PANIC
NIGHTWING
RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS
ROBIN
SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL
SHAZAM
SUICIDE SQUAD
SUPER SONS
SWAMP THING

QUARTERL

Quarterly titles are 80 pages, 72 pages of story, $7.99
BRAVE AND BOLD
WORLDS FINEST

ANNUALS

These are stand alone. Annual titles are 64 pages, 60 pages of story, $6.50

ALL STAR WESTERN
GOTHAM SIRENS
LOIS LANE
METAL MEN
OMAC
PHANTOM STRANGER
PLASTIC MAN
SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER-VILLAINS
SGT. ROCK
SHAZAM FAMILY
TRINITY
ZATANNA

Marvel Comics On Sale August 2018 - Selection

MARVEL Publishing proposal

The idea laid out below is to expand the story pages per issue so a single story can be told in each comic. The equation I have worked out is as follows; 80% of the issue is a single story with the other 20% made up of references and fall-out to previous stories and setting up the future stories.

Every issue should be a substantive read and enjoyable on its own with a tease to make the reader want more.

The problem with comics is that they cannot be read by the mainstream reader because there is no starting point. To understand reaching a wider audience you have to understand that the average person does not consume their media in the same way as comics readers have been trained to. They have to learn it in the same way people have been trained to binge-watch Netflix and HBO series where a large story is broken down into chunks. People don’t expect to see an article or interview to be broken down across 6 to 12 issues of People magazine or Vanity Fair. Every magazine is a done in one. Premiere magazine might do a series of features where each issue it looks at a different Stanley Kubrick film. It is a series but each article can be read and enjoyed separately.

The idea is to publish fewer titles at a higher cover price with greater perceived value. It also becomes possible to buy all the core universe books at $70 per month. Reading complete stories would encourage people to stop waiting for the trade, while still satisfying the current audience preferring a longer read.

Another possible suggestion to add to these is to start every year with a new number 1 but start numbering the volumes. Each year is one volume.

I’ve broken down the publishing schedule into MONTHLY, MINI-SERIES, QUARTERLY and ANNUALS.

There are 14 monthly titles but a further 10 titles a month because of the mini-series. I’ve assigned titles based on those that have the most long-range popularity while some titles that are currently popular I have pulled back on in an effort to make sure they stay popular and not to over saturate the market.

MONTHLY

Monthly titles are 48 pages, 44 pages of story, $4.99

CORE TITLES: Titles that make up the must-read center of the MARVEL Universe.

AVENGERS
BLACK PANTHER
CAPTAIN AMERICA
CAPTAIN MARVEL
DAREDEVIL
DOCTOR STRANGE
FANTASTIC FOUR
GUARDIANS OF GALAXY
HULK
INHUMANS
IRON MAN
MS MARVEL
NEW MUTANTS
SPIDER-MAN
THOR
X-MEN

REGULAR ANNUAL 4 ISSUE MINI-SERIES

These titles get one mini-series a year. Not necessary to read to understand the MU. No MINI-SERIES title can affect the larger MU. Mini-series titles are 32 pages, 24 pages of story, $3.50

ANT-MAN
BLACK PANTHER CREW
BLACK WIDOW
BROTHERHOOD (OF MUTANTS)
BULLSEYE
CABLE
CLOAK & DAGGER
DEADPOOL
DEFENDERS
DR DOOM
ELEKTRA
FALCON
GHOST RIDER
HAWKEYE
IRON FIST
KINGPIN
LUKE CAGE
JESSICA JONES
MAN-THING
MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR
NICK FURY
NOVA
PUNISHER
ROCKET AND GROOT
SECRET WARRIORS
SILVER SURFER
SPIDER-GWEN
SUBMARINER
TALES OF ASGARD
UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL
VENOM
WARLOCK
WOLVERINE

QUARTERLY

Quarterly titles are 80 pages, 72 pages of story, $7.99

BRING ON THE BAD GUYS
MARVEL TEAM UP
MONSTERS UNLEASHED
TALES OF THE WATCHER

ANNUALS

These are stand alone. Annual titles are 64 pages, 60 pages of story, $6.50

BETA RAY BILL
GHOST RIDER
HOWARD THE DUCK
KAZAR/SHANNA
MAGNETO
MAN-THING
NEW MUTANTS
POWER PACK
SHE-HULK
X-MEN

So what do you, the comic readers think?

1/ Would you be okay with there being fewer titles published if it meant the long-term health of the industry could be improved?

2/ Do you think your favourite characters are oversaturated? Is less more?

3/ Would this plan make you read more or fewer comics?

4/ What are you currently reading?

Your comments welcome below.

Dave Elliott is the driving force of Atomeka Press, the award winning producer of content for 25 years. You can find him on DeviantArt here (and the original post of this item here).Atomeka Press is also on Facebook here

Comichron offers month by month guides to US comic sales figures, dating back to 1993

The latest Diamond Previews catalogue detailing comics offered to comic shops is here

Published by

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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